Avoiding the “Further Sundering” of the Episcopal Church

Liberals hold back on same-sex blessings in light of recent events
( [email protected] ) Nov 10, 2003 01:12 PM EST

Following the consecration of the gay-bishop on Nov. 2 and the subsequent efforts of the conservative parishes to separate themselves from the “heresy,” liberal Episcopalians decided to hold back any actions that could further dichotomize the disturbed denomination.

"We intend to go forward, but this is a very tough moment, and I don't want to contribute to the further sundering of the church, “ said the Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, the rector of Trinity Church in Boston.

Though Lloyd, a prominent voice of liberal Episcopalians, did not decide to halt the consecration of gay leaders and the blessings of same sex couples, he agreed to delay those actions in the effort to avoid further antagonizing conservatives alienated by the consecration of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire.

"The church has just made a bold and courageous step forward, and now we're in the process of trying to reach out to those who have been dislocated by that," said

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, the head of the diocese of Massachusetts, also a vocal supporter gay rights, stayed low key about the recent events during the diocese’s 218th convention, Nov. 8.

"I look out on this convention today, and I see the faces of a number of people that made their way up to New Hampshire for the consecration of Bishop Robinson last Sunday," Shaw said at the convention. "And for some people in this diocese, that was a joyfully anticipated event, and for other people in this diocese it was a sad time in the life of this church and one that people found very upsetting.

Shaw, who earlier gave tacit approval to Robinson’s consecration as well as the blessing of same sex unions in 10 of the 15 parishes within his diocese, did not refer to the crisis, but instead focused on revitalizing the church’s mission. Just last week, Shaw published a theological defense of his vote to affirm the election of Robinson as an Episcopal bishop.

Nonetheless, he has been trying to reach out to the conservative parishes in Massachusetts. According to Lloyd, Shaw asked Trinity Church, a nationally prominent parish, to delay moving forward on same-sex blessings to avoid intensifying the controversy over homosexuality.

Lloyd said that over the last several weeks, a conservative minority at Trinity "has begun to make themselves heard" and that he is trying to reach out to them. But he is also under pressure from his parish's liberal majority. "On the progressive side, I'm trying people's patience,” Lloyed said.

In the week following Robinson’s consecration, several conservative parishes asked for a re-distribution of oversight, so as to avoid being under the leadership of a gay bishop. Similarly, liberal parishes outside the Massachusetts diocese asked to be supervised by Shaw.

According to Murdoch, the West Newbury rector, only time will show the direction in which the church will flow.

"This is a wait-and-see time," Murdoch said. "The force of history is shifting the whole Anglican Communion worldwide, but how is this going to affect the parishes who are clearly in the minority here? That's a work in progress. All of us want to see how this is going to unfold."